How To Let Go Of Career Guilt

How To Let Go Of Career Guilt

career guilt

Question: What are you feeling guilty about today?

Productivity failings? Something to do with your family? What you had for dinner last night? (Please say ice cream!).  Or…is it your career?


If I’m honest, I think that career guilt is the WORST.

It’s like carrying a weight around your neck filled with to-dos, heavy criticism, fear of letting anyone down, and the unceasing mantra “I have to earn something because I have to pay the RENT.”

Your career should feel like a classy necklace of statement style, but when you have career guilt it’s more like a decidedly unattractive chain of depression.

I’ve talked to so many people in the last few months who are staying stuck in their careers because of guilt.

Guilt around wanting something else instead of being grateful for what they have. Guilt around leaving, because the company needs them.  Guilt around even THINKING about quitting, because your family told you to stay at the “safe” job.  Or the “good” job.  Or the job that you (presume) will pay your bills as long as you continue to show up.

And since the holidays are just around the corner, I’m sure that there will be an additional helping of guilt coming your way shortly :).


So let’s talk about guilt for a second.

First off, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no job is safe.  Job safety left decades ago, but its myth has persisted.  So if you are getting guilt thrown at you because of your “safe” job, you need to take a hard look in the mirror.

I used to work in one of the safest industries around – consulting to the government.  Our contracts were measured in years or decades.  Our work was so safe because we all had clearances.  And then…the sequester happened and I learned that some of my friends were laid off or lost their jobs.  Some couldn’t get hired again for YEARS.

This is just one story, but there are millions like this.  So please, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because your job is safe, it’s okay to be miserable for years and you don’t need a back up plan.  You ALWAYS need a back up plan.  More importantly, you DESERVE a back up plan.

Your happiness is important.


And this is my second point, and it’s big so I’ll say it again: Your happiness is important.

Don’t let guilt stand in the way of that.  It’s not helping you.

When you fly on a plane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask first, before you attempt to help anyone else.  You know the reason why: If you can’t breathe then you can’t help.  Trying to save someone else means that you might end up losing both of you.

Why should your career be any different?

I know, there are so many excuses! Kids are a priority, you just bought a house, you are the main bread winner, your volunteer work takes up so much of your time you can’t focus right now.

But that’s what they are – excuses.

Sometimes life is busy and your  career needs to take second place.

But it can’t be that way all the time.

A some point you need to treat the disease, and not just ignore the symptoms.

So, please let go of the guilt of putting your career needs ahead of those of your family, your company, your friends, or those that need you.  If you are drowning in misery and guilt, it’s unlikely that you are the person you want to be with those people anyway.  And they deserve to have all of you…not just the leftover bits that drag in at the end of the workday.

So this is me giving YOU the permission to put your career first right now, and ignore any holiday or other guilt that is coming your way.

You are pretty special.  Don’t be afraid to go after what you want.


Need some more support to go after what you want but feeling kind of stuck?

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